There are no easy answers for why God made the soul eternal.
Frank Herbert , the respected science fiction author who wrote his masterwork Dune in 1965, once said that “the mystery of life isn’t a problem to solve, but a reality to experience.” In the opening few minutes of the outrageously plotted fantasy epic The Fountain , you’ll probably wish you had a little less reality and a little more mystery. The movie is like a science conference that everyone knows about but no one actually attends. It asks many enlightened questions about the nature of the universe and immortality, but presents them in a way that is overly pedantic. Ultimately, you do end up caring about the characters—the movie hyper-focuses on them so much that you almost have to watch the ceiling tiles to avoid them—and the story does eventually hit its stride toward the end (thanks to well meaning performances by Rachel Weisz and Hugh Jackman), but it’s actually a movie that is more fun to think about and analyze than it is to actually watch.
There are three main plot lines—something about a conquistador trying to find the fountain of youth, a doctor trying to save his ailing wife who is dying from cancer, and an astronaut who just stands around mouthgaped looking at the universe. In between all of this preposterousness and somewhat nauseating special effects—none of them digital, by the way—is a sort of bookend story about the same guy being trapped in a bubble with a massive oak tree, various pagan artifacts, and lots of tattoos on his arm. He looks like the evil character in Hellraiser without the spikes, or maybe it’s young Lex Luther, but tends to just sit there thinking dark brooding thoughts, wishing he could get a second chance.
As Christians, all of this talk of immortality and second chances might sound vaguely familiar. We believe in the immortality of the soul, something that Jesus touches on in one of the most often quoted verses in the Bible: John 3:16. This eternal life is less about our own spirit existing for eons (which it will) but about worshipping at the feet of Christ in a way that will never grow dull or tedious (like, say, The Fountain ). Meanwhile, we also believe that non-Christians will live beyond death, in a place where the fire of hell will never be extinguished (Mark 9:43). Granted, this is not a topic that comes up in everyday conversation, and it’s not a favorite flannelboard discussion in Sunday School. Jesus described the fire of hell as a garbage pit outside of Jerusalem; it’s also a place of eternal punishment where people will gnash their teeth in constant despair.
There are no easy answers for why God made the soul eternal, and no easy explanation for why every human seems to possess an innate ability to look beyond this life into another. Some call it a false hope, that your body and soul eventually drift into nothingness—and yet, even the most convinced atheist probably wishes they could see a loved one again after death. God planted this seed in us, and as Christians we can help others see that there is more to life than the atoms you can see and touch. It’s a wake-up call: Even though it might sound like a Billy Graham revival and a topic that will get you easily ostracized in the debate class, hell is not just a vague concept that someone used scare people; it’s a real place that should make evangelicals shudder.
Point one: Life is eternal
Life is not just a single point of reality, but extends beyond death into the eternal—and this is not just for Christians, but for all mankind.
Point two: Hell is still a good motivation for sharing the Gospel
Sure, it is out of fashion to talk about fire or brimstone, but when you consider that there is an immortality to the soul, and that those who do not choose Christ are abandoned to a place of isolation and damnation, it should get you motivated.
Questions for discussion
1. How do you define immortality?
2. Is hell a place of isolation, punishment, or pain? Or all three?
3. Why do you think God made us so that our spirit lives on after death?
4. What is the alternative to believing that the soul is immortal?
5. What are three things you can do now in light of this immortality?